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How Many Spaces After a Period?

I was asked to review a document by my manager at work. I found that at a couple of instances, two spaces after a period was being used. When I told her that, she said that the rule is to use two spaces after a period, not one. I was stumped! Up to this moment in my life I had thought that I was supposed to use one space after a period and there she was, telling me that I was wrong. I asked a co-worker to make sure that I was right and he told me the same thing – use two spaces after a period. Badly in need of sanity check, I Googled, and found my answer.
Typewriters had a single font and all the characters were spaced out evenly. Thus, to mark the separation between sentences more clearly, two spaces were to be used. You will come across the same problem if you use a font that is mono-spaced. However, with computer fonts, they can differentiate between characters input and space them appropriately. So, in the age of computers, we use single space after a period. My manager and my co-worker were not wrong, but they were definitely wrong in telling me that I was making a mistake!

Can Law Firms Go Public?

I was asking this question just the other day with a prominent lawyer from New York, and he said that there are no public law firms that he knew of, at least in the US, because there is a law that bars law firms from going public. I responded, “Since law firms do not need to raise a lot of capital after all, and it is profitable for law firms to remain private, why would they go public anyway?” However, after reading this piece on the Freakonomics blog, I realized that I was wrong.

I was looking at the issue just from the side of the big law firms, and yes, they would not like to go public when they are making so much money already. But when you consider small or mid-size law firms which do not have the clout as the big ones do, it might be advantageous for some of them to compete against the big law firms to establish themselves.

An article titled “Jacoby & Meyers’ Newest Fight: Helping Nonlawyers Own Law Firms” from the WSJ brought this issue in light.

Jacoby & Meyers Law Offices LLP, a pioneer of television legal advertising, filed lawsuits Wednesday challenging state laws in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that prohibit nonattorneys from owning stakes in law firms. The ban on law firms accepting non-lawyer investors is nationwide, with the exception of Washington, D.C., under ethics rules established largely by state supreme courts. Violations of the rules can lead to disbarment. The present system of ownership restrictions “perpetuates economic inequity,” Jacoby & Meyers said in Wednesday’s court filings. “The small [legal] practice does not have access to the capital markets that the Wall Street [law] firms have,” it added.

The previous paragraph sums the main reason why law firms might want to go public. When a small law firm stumbles against a big case, they realize they do not have enough resources to handle the case whereas big law firms have enough resources at their disposal, which keeps the playing field unfair and is a significant barrier for small and mid-sized law firms from getting big and being able to compete with established practices. Now I see there is a valid reasoning behind why law firms should be allowed to go public, as the current system also protects big law firms from potential competition. Another advantage that I see is public law firms would more likely be doing things legally than private firms would. This would lead to a better condition than the status quo as it would promote efficiency by enabling competition and were such public law firms to trump private ones, there would be less irregularities associated with law firms too. But whether this happens or not remains to be seen.

(Repost from my old blog published May 20, 2011)

Build your personal brand

This is a theme that I have believed in for sometime and reading Gary Vaynerchuk‘s Crush It!: Why NOW is the time to cash in on your passion inspired me to write this post. (While trying to find the book on Amazon, I just realized that I overpaid for the book on Google Books. Doh!)

I feel sorry for most people who tell me that they want to become a particular professional. The pace at which I see disruption happen, I am scared for the people who are going to have skill sets that are tailored towards particular jobs. Many industries and business models are going to be disrupted, which means the jobs that exist today will no longer exist in the future.

Let me give you an example for those of you who want to take an academic path. According to Clayton Christensen of HBS, half the colleges and universities in the US will be bankrupt in the next 15 years because of a different model for education. The disruption will come in the form of students getting instruction from online material i.e. video lectures from world-class professors. The classroom will be the place where the students will make full use of the professor and their peers (which is my idea). Clay also points out that with the disruption from MOOCs, we will no longer need to educate batches of people based on how old they are. Students who grasp material will be able to progress much quicker than the others; thus getting rid of the inefficient model of education. (I will write a subsequent post proposing a model of education that Saint Peters should experiment with.)

In this new model, the way colleges and universities operate in itself will be very different. The skill sets required to be a moderator in a classroom rather than an instructor will be very different. If you are getting “trained” to be an instructor, make sure that you position yourself well to be a great moderator too! If you are planning on being a professor at a university so that you get to do research, that too might no longer be even feasible 15 years down the line!

Resumes (in the current format) will be useless in a few years. With more people putting content over the web building their personal brand, you will find yourself competing with people who have authenticity that employers can very easily have access to. Unless you are building your own brand, you are going to find it very hard to switch jobs when your current one no longer exists (think writing clerks being replaced by printers). Gary argues that with the cost of building your personal brand at ZERO, there is no excuse why you are not building your personal brand at this moment. All it takes is sweat equity i.e. hard work. Well, if you are lazy and do not want to put the effort in building your personal brand, you know why you deserve to be jobless when the time comes 😉

Solving the education conundrum for the poor through innovation

This is a part of my senior thesis; Poverty can only be solved through innovation. I use education as an example of an application of what I mean by innovation and how it applies to solving poverty. Here I offer a summary of my argument (for education).

I have a thesis that the only way to solve poverty is through innovation. We solve our first world problems through innovations. That is how we have progressed. But for programs to solve poverty, we try the same old models OVER and OVER again! We know that they did not work before. But we continue to pour in money into a system that does not solve the problems.

Applying this to education, I see the possibility of completely turning the model of education on its head through MOOCs. MOOCs gives us the ability to scale quality instruction with very little cost. The old (current) model of education depends on students being present in a classroom where they are dependent upon the instructor to teach them the material. For this model to work, you need to build (physical) infrastructure i.e. schools. You need teachers (and pay for them) to teach. You need textbooks, which are printed on paper and have costs attached to them. You need notebooks so that students can write on them; additional cost. They need to come to a physical location, which means additional cost in places where the population density is low. It also adds cost, especially to the poor, when they have to travel to get to a school. Finally, this model assumes that every single teacher does their job effectively, as being up to the least acceptable standard.

This model is a proprietary system (this is a very long video and my ideas build off on this). It has expensive parts that have to fit in to the system. The model is composed of schools as infrastructures and teachers who teach. Textbooks, notebooks, stationery items, travel (to the school) adds to the cost. Incumbents have a massive advantage from their competition in this model. Conclusion: this model is inefficient and expensive! It was built for the purposes to meet the needs of industrialization. Obviously, we need a new model now!

The new model will be based on giving the tools to students to learn i.e. tablets. With the falling prices of tablet devices i.e. Akash tablets, available to students in India for as low as $20 through government subsidies and unlimited data plans available for $2 per month, this is the new model that is cheap and can scale. This eliminates the need for physical schools, for individual teachers (the cost of finding and training them), for costs associated with supplying books and stationery. On the other hand, it provides an opportunity for an open model where the best instructions can be put together that can scale infinitely. Tablets also eliminate the need to supply printed books and stationery (hint: this saves the environment). The government could choose to build strong cellular network or leave it up to private companies to provide for the infrastructure. Since this resource is not exclusive to  just using tablets, but can be used for commercial purposes too, it has great potential to be sustainable.

There are additional advantages of building an education system based on MOOCs. It empowers students with the access to virtually limitless data. It also provides them with tools (and opportunity) to use their tablet devices the best way they can suited for their purpose. It also eliminates the need for batch based education. This will allow students to learn at the pace they are comfortable and this solving the problem associated with not everyone in the same class being at the same level of preparedness. The most exciting part for me is the ability of these students to make use of the resources to solve their own problems. The potential, I see, is virtually limitless!

Note: I will be updating this post, with more links to support my arguments.

Huge gap between first and second in the top European football leagues

I have put together a collage of screenshots of the current point standings of the top four football leagues in Europe and you can clearly see the difference between the first and the second teams.

  • EPL: Manchester United holds a 13 point lead over second placed city rival Manchester City
  • La Liga: Juventus holds an 11 point lead over second placed Napoli
  • La Liga: Barcelona has an 11 point lead over second placed Real Madrid; with Barca’s game in progress at the time of writing, the game tied at 0-0
  • Bundesliga: Bayern Munich holds a 20 point lead over defending champions Borussia Dortmund, with Bayern already having won the title

You rarely used to see gaps as massive as these in previous seasons, where the title got decided not until the last game at times. As Manchester United fans might recall, until the last 90 seconds! I leave it up to you to analyze the possible implications 🙂Image

Why do Nepali students wear slippers at Saint Peters?

I was having a conversation with the lady by the Quick Zone (at Saint Peter’s University) and after seeing that I had my slippers on, she commented that all the Nepali students wear flip-flops; even when it is snowing! I gave her an explanation and I was surprised at how good it sounded to me. Thus I would like to share it with you:

In Nepal, we have a culture of not wearing shoes inside the house. You take off your shoes before you go in; primarily because the shoes are going to be dirty, unlike here. When we go somewhere close by, then it is easy to just put on our slippers rather having to put on shoes. Moreover, if we are visiting someone close  by, then we would need to take off our shoes before going inside their house anyway!

On the contrary, most people here in the US wear their shoes inside their house too. Thus, people here put on their shoes longer and do not have to go through the hassles of having to take them off quite often either. Thus, it makes sense to me why Nepali students can be seen wearing slippers most of the time since we are used to that habit, especially if we are just going around on campus.

I feel that this is a very good explanation to the question. Please feel free to comment if you think differently or have additional explanations.